The Fisherman and a .410 Shotgun
by John Messick
One summer Saturday in sixth grade, my father offered to drive me fifteen miles down the road to go fishing with an old man whose wife had recently passed away.
“John,” my father told me, “You’ll make Mr. Radevich happy if you do this.”
“Sure Dad,” I replied, and rushed to our garage for my tackle box.
At twelve, I held the opinion that there was no greater pursuit in life than fishing, and I believed still that the whole point was to catch fish. I was obsessed. While my classmates watched cartoons, I would don my father’s waders and slog through icy streams in pursuit of wary trout. On Sundays, I brought a rod to church because we sometimes stopped at a nearby lake on our way home. The rest of the week, I spent hours in our front yard with a plastic plug, perfecting my cast. I memorized the regulations for every lake and stream in a three state radius; I hid Field and Stream articles in my school desk. I studied underwater maps with a flashlight under my blankets, well after bedtime.
Whenever the chance to go fishing arose, I took it. It didn’t matter to me that Dragisa Radevich was almost seventy years my senior, or that he had an accent so thick it was almost incomprehensible. He was old, which meant to me that he probably had a lot of fishing experience. Logically, this improved my chances of catching more fish. Back then, I would have hedged almost any bet, suffered any embarrassment, endured any hardship, in order to catch more, and bigger, fish. It never occurred to me that an old fisherman might impart a deeper wisdom as well.